Seraph used to protect the Merovingian, but now protects the Oracle:
Why does the Oracle need protection? The Oracle is a unique program in the way that it is not invisible to people inside the Matrix. As the Oracle says herself, programs that are functioning as they should are invisible when they’re doing their job (programs governing birds, weather, etc.). But the Oracle isn’t one of those programs. Because of her unique purpose of guiding the One, she must live in a physical shell inside the Matrix, and she is therefore more vulnerable inside the system than other programs. That is why the best protection is necessary, even for the Oracle, who can see pretty far into the future.
When the Merovingian was protected by Seraph, it would have been for the same reason as the Oracle: the Merovingian was a unique program in the way that he was not invisible to people inside the Matrix. When the Merovingian was scheduled for deletion, Seraph probably was too, and both became exiles. This would have made Seraph even more of a "slave" to the Merovingian than he was before, because just like any other exile under the Merovingian's control, the Merovingian guarantees their protection from system restarts in exchange for their loyal service, whatever it may involve (including crime).
In ETM, Seraph says he is forever indebted to the Oracle. What this probably means is that the Oracle named Seraph her protector sometime after Seraph had become an exile. In other words, the Oracle removed Seraph's exile status and reinstated him with purpose within the Matrix system. She literally got Seraph out of machine hell.
Smith is right about purpose - it drives, binds and guides programs. Even more than that, purpose is the only reason programs are allowed to survive. If a program's purpose is outdated, the system determines that the program is to be deleted. To reinstate Seraph's purpose within the system is to give Seraph everything that matters. Thus, he truly is "forever indebted" to the Oracle. He no longer has to depend on the Merovingian to survive system restarts.
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